They call these the dog days of summer - those slow, sultry weeks when August reluctantly rolls into September, where afternoons last years and it's hotter and more humid than you've ever remembered any summer being.
It's the time of year when Sirius, the Dog Star, is high in the sky, rising and setting with the melting sun,
and it's the time to say goodbye to sundresses and sandals, and afternoon walks to the corner ice cream shop for chocolate sorbet;
to farms where sunbathed migrant workers shucked corn against the hazy, golden backdrop of the Catskill Mountains;
to spotted cows feeding at the trough at dusk, their tails drowsily brushing flies away in the afterglow of twilight;
to plucking wild raspberries and blackberries off brambly bushes, and picking their sticky seeds from my teeth on morning walks with Maple;
to the family of black bears who sauntered up and down the mountainside in search of feral turkeys, their paws the size of catchers' mitts;
and it's time to say good riddance to driving an old Jeep with no air conditioning, back-soaked t-shirts, and Garth Brooks twanging about wheats fields and rodeos on replay.
Goodbye to my first summer in the Hudson River Valley. You were intense, wild, full of surprises, and you will never been forgotten.
This thick, buttery lemon spread is the perfect end-of-summer
filling for a pie or tart. It's a sweet surprise inside a layer cake,
and also makes a lovely spread for scones and muffins.
3 medium egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
2 lemons, zested and juiced
1/2 stick butter, cut into pats and chilled
Place a medium saucepan on the stove and add enough water to come about 1-inch up the side.
Bring the water to a simmer over medium-high heat. While the water is heating, combine the egg yolks and sugar in a medium size metal bowl and whisk until smooth (about one minute).
Squeeze the juice of the two lemons into a measuring cup, topping off with water (if necessary) so that there's 1/3 cup altogether. Add the juice and lemon zest to the egg mixture and whisk until smooth.
Once the water is simmering, reduce the heat to low and place a large bowl on top of saucepan, essentially creating a double-boiler where the bowl doesn't directly touch the water. Whisk until thickened (about eight minutes), or until the mixture is light yellow and is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
Remove the bowl from the heat and stir in one pat of butter at a time. Allow each piece to fully melt before adding the next.
Pour into a mason jar or container, covering the top with plastic wrap (the plastic wrap should be directly touching the curd). Can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.
A cold front rolled in this weekend, and with it came rain that began Saturday afternoon and has fallen steadily through Sunday morning. The forecast calls for another inch of rain by night fall, which is fine by us. Rain and fog make for yucky driving conditions on the mountain so it's the perfect excuse to stay home with the fire roaring and binge on season 3 of Orange Is the New Black.
We put our housebound status to good use yesterday; Hubby assembled our new Norditrack elliptical machine in the upstairs loft, while I worked on creating a Meal Binder. I came across the idea on Little House Living, a homesteading blog that I follow, and thought it would be a great resource to help better plan dinners and, subsequently, better budget our grocery expenditures each week.
I'll be reentering the workforce in July so Hubby will become, as he puts it, Mr. Mom. He works from home and I'll be commuting to an office each day, so he'll be preparing most of our dinners from here on out. He's a good cook and really great with the grill, but meal planning and grocery shopping are my forte. So to make his life easier, I'm working on creating this Meal Binder for him that is full of our favorite recipes.
It's broken up into four sections - poultry, beef, pork and side dishes. Each week I'll choose five recipes and do one big food shop for the ingredients. I'll flag the recipes in the binder so that he knows which ones we have ingredients on hand for. All he has to do is decide which one he's in the mood to cook each evening. And then he needs to cook it. And I can come home to my little family and a yummy dinner and life will be grand. Well, maybe not so grand for him since he's the one cooking. Agree to disagree on that one.
The idea/hope/goal is that this process will a) give us a ballpark budget of what groceries should cost each week when we properly meal plan; b) deter us from ordering take-out, something which we do too often; and c) ensure that I'm not stopping at the grocery store on my way home from work each day, something I've done in the past that drove me insane. And I don't want to be insane.
I'm considering adding a breakfast section since I have a lot of quiche, frittata and pastry recipes that we eat on a quasi-regular basis. This week I baked a batch of strawberry oatmeal bars and we've been eating them in the mornings with our coffee and as snacks throughout the day. So much better than spending $4 on coffee and a bagel at Tim Horton's every single morning. Okay, Hubby won't agree with me on that one. Agree to disagree.
Strawberry Oatmeal Bars
1 & 1/2 cup oats (can be quick or old-fashioned)
1 & 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup wheat germ
1 & 1/2 stick cold butter, diced into pieces
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon table salt
12-ounce jar of strawberry preserves (you can use any flavor of preserves but I think strawberry is great for summertime)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, then grease a 9 x 13 baking dish.
In a large mixing bowl, mix together the oats, flour, brown sugar, baking powder and salt.
Add the butter and cut it in with a pastry cutter (or your hands but this will require a bit of elbow grease) until it resembles coarse crumbs.
Sprinkle half the mixture into the pan and pat lightly to pack it. Spoon the preserves over the packed mixture and spread evenly and gently using a butter knife. Sprinkle the other half of the oat mixture over the layer of preserves and pat lightly again to pack.
Bake until light golden brown (30 to 40 minutes). Remove from the oven and let cool in pan. Once fully cool, cut into squares and enjoy.
I recently read a quote by Winston Churchill - "There is nothing wrong with change if it is in the right direction."
Now I'm not one to post inspirational memes on my Facebook timeline - I'm much too cynical for that - but this particular line resonated with me. It brought to mind the magnet on my fridge with Henry David Thoreau's famous advice: "Go confidently in the direction of your dreams... Live the life you've imagined."
Today marks the one month anniversary of our move to New York. Now that Moving May is behind us, we can reflect a bit. Hubby and I were talking about it last night and had to pat ourselves on the back for what we've managed to accomplish in just 30 days.
He traded in his sports car for a mountain-worthy vehicle, a brand new Jeep. A Patriot. I'll let the symbolism speak for itself.
Ala Billy Joel, I took a train down the Hudson River line and into Manhattan where one of Bobby's dearest friends gave me a personal tour of his workplace - the New York Times building. I walked the newsroom and even had lunch in the employee cafeteria, crossing multiple items off my Bucket List in one afternoon.
But beyond the material things, we feel we've grown richer simply by living where we live. We've planted a summer vegetable garden, gotten lost on winding country roads, meandered through small towns where the streets are lined with American flags, stumbled upon roadside barns in search of antiques, watched fireflies dance on a crystal clear night and seen the mountains disappear in the mist before a thunderstorm.
There will always be the stresses of everyday life, but, at this moment, we are letting ourselves simply enjoy the view. Now that we're facing the right direction.
White Cheddar Spinach Frittata
We've been making the most of our quiet mornings on the mountain by
drinking good, strong coffee and cooking hearty breakfasts like this one.
12 ounces fresh spinach leaves
2 tablespoons butter
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1 tablespoon cream or milk
1/2 cup plus 1/4 cup sharp white cheddar, grated*
salt & pepper to taste
* It's best to use a block of cheese and hand-grate it. Packaged, pre-shredded cheeses have a powdery preservative on them that will prevent them from melting properly.
First you'll want to blanch the spinach by placing it in a pot of boiling water for 30 seconds. Drain in a colander and run cold water over them until cool enough to handle. In small bunches, squeeze the excess water from them, then give them a good chopping and set aside.
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.
In a cast iron skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Saute the chopped onions until they begin to brown, about 7 minutes. Add the minced garlic and cook for another minute, stirring constantly so the garlic doesn't burn. Add the spinach and heat through.
In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, cream/milk, grated cheese, salt and pepper. Once the veggies in the pan are heated through, pour the egg mixture over them and cook over low heat for 2 minutes.
Place the skillet in the oven and cook through, 12 - 15 minutes.
Welcome! I'm a pie-baking, dog-loving, antique-hunting patriot. I'm a fan of rustic home cooking, the Yankees and scenic drives through the mountains.